Loch Ossian round - Seven Munros by Train Walking

Ben Alder and the Geal-Charn range combine scale and remoteness to impressive effect. They're an undertaking from any start point, and while bikes can take the sting out of the mileage, nothing beats arriving by train. Corrour is a perfect spot to start a big round, inaccessible by car but convenient via rail from points as exotic as London and Fort William. A windswept platform in the boondocks of Rannoch Moor, it's famous for being the highest and most isolated mainline station in Britain, and for a bit part in Trainspotting (yes we're still ruled by effete ****holes). But of course it's all about the hills - and you won't be disappointed. Alder, a Cairngorm-like mass of plateau and corrie scenery dumped like an iceberg in a sea of moorland; the Geal-Charn range, an enjoyable ridge stride over a series of hulking tops; Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre with their huge views over the Moor; and little Beinn na Lap, more than just an afterthought. Try doing the lot in this seven-Munro circuit. Go light and fast from a base at Corrour, or take a tent and sleep halfway.

Loch Ossian and distant Ben Nevis from the ascent of Carn Dearg  © Dan Bailey -
Loch Ossian and distant Ben Nevis from the ascent of Carn Dearg

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Detailed description

NN3560766425 A track runs east to Loch Ossian. At a junction near the Youth Hostel turn right and follow the track on a rising traverse beneath Meall nan Lice before curving south along the western flank of Carn Dearg. Turn off at will for the steady ascent up the spur of Gualainn Chlachach and the pleasant upper ridge to Carn Dearg's summit. With an outlook directly over Rannoch Moor this is arguably one of the best viewpoints on the route.

NN4178366146 Descend the northeast spur to the broad grassy col of the Mam Ban and continue easily uphill onto the nice peak of Sgor Gaibhre, Munro number two. A steep, eroded descent of the northwest flank brings you to the Bealach nan Sgor. Once a fully fledged Munro, now a Top, the domed peak of Sgor Choinnich is now a straightforward ascent.
Schiehallion and Loch Ericht from Sgor Choinnich  © Dan Bailey -
Schiehallion and Loch Ericht from Sgor Choinnich
© Dan Bailey -

NN4433068335 Bear briefly north before curving right, threading a line of descent down a steep, rocky slope to the next broad bealach. Stroll over Meall a' Bhealaich, and continue down and then up onto Beinn a' Chumhainn, the final rounded top of this enjoyable ridge stride. Again, head north before curving northeast on a steep, pathless descent to the Bealach Cumhainn.

NN4663071688 This pass is dispiritingly low, especially if you've arrived late in the day from an unhelpfully timed train, and the initial path-free ascent of Ben Alder's unhelpful lower flank may feel quite a plod. Once the hard work is done, the open turfy plain of the summit plateau is a delight. In friendly weather it's a leisurely jaunt, but poor visibility here will test your navigation. A path of sorts (not that you need one) runs parallel to a chuckling burn, then continues in much the same line to the cairn and trig pillar marking the high point of the round.
Beinn Eibhinn, Aonach Beag, and distant Knoydart, from Ben Alder  © Dan Bailey -
Beinn Eibhinn, Aonach Beag, and distant Knoydart, from Ben Alder
© Dan Bailey -

NN4960671855 It's worth heading to the corrie edge for the views, before taking a more northwesterly line back down across the plateau. Descend into the rugged scoop of Coire na h-Eiginn, then follow the burn more steeply downhill. Cross just above a waterfall, bearing left to outflank craggy ground. Cross a boggy col and skirt just right of the mini peak of Meall an t-Slugain before descending into the Bealach Dubh, a dramatic and historic through-route dividing Ben Alder from. The Geal-Charn range, your next target.

NN4810073211 Heading roughly north, zigzag uphill on pathless ground to a wide col connecting Sgor Iutharn with Geal-Charn. Bearing left, climb steeper stony slopes onto the summit plateau, and stroll easily west to the cairn.

NN4698874619 Continuing west, the hill narrows into a grassy ridge, giving enjoyable striding into a small col, and then easily up to Aonach Beag. More ridge fun leads southwest, before curving gracefully rightwards onto the graceful summit of Beinn Eibhinn, last of these biggies.
Aonach Beag, Geal-Charn and Ben Alder from Beinn Eibhinn  © Dan Bailey -
Aonach Beag, Geal-Charn and Ben Alder from Beinn Eibhinn
© Dan Bailey -

NN4481573391 Stay with the summit ridge briefly, then peel off west, passing some tiny pools on a col and then over an un-named top, before descending rough pathless ground to a lower saddle with bigger lochans. Go over the Munro top of Mullach Coire nan Nead. Shortly after the knobbly summit bear south-southwest to descend to a grassy shoulder above Coire nan Nead. Turning northwest, the coire offers a steep descent on path-free tussocks. When nearly level with the impressive slabby face of Creagan nan Nead, cut right to avoid crags and waterfalls, before following the burn downhill to an old sheepfold and a vehicle track beside Loch Ghuilbinn.

NN4144973855 At just 350m, Strath Ossian is the low point of the entire round, and the final peak, stand-alone Beinn na Lap, will take some effort. It would be possible - though a shame - to retreat on glen tracks all the way back to Corrour. Made of sterner stuff? OK, then make for the bridge over the River Ossian before doubling back and following the higher of two tracks (more a private road, really) west below Sron nan Nead.

NN3980573020 At a bridge over the Allt Feith Thuill turn left onto an unmade track, briefly shadowing the burn upstream before veering left onto an even less distinct track. More bog than terra firma, this winds southwest below the northern ridge of Beinn na Lap. Stay with the mudfest for at least 1km before cutting right directly up onto the ridge. With firmer ground, and fantastic views back over all the hills you've traversed, the ridge proves to be a bit of a gem, giving a long easy lope up to the summit of Beinn na Lap.
Beinn Eibhinn & Ben Alder from Beinn na Lap's north ridge  © Dan Bailey -
Beinn Eibhinn & Ben Alder from Beinn na Lap's north ridge
© Dan Bailey -

NN3761469582 The end is now finally in sight, and you've got a clear path to get there. First go southwest down the broad ridge, with a panorama out over Rannoch Moor at your feet. Now follow the grass-and-mud path, initially below the crest, then almost due south straight downhill, to reach the vehicle track near the head of Loch Ossian. Head first towards the Youth Hostel, then turn right for the final stretch back to Corrour. With luck the restaurant will be open and serving chips and beer.

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